Johnson County Landfill owner Waste Management works to control odor

Spike in odor complaints occurred last year due to increased rainfall

Nick Booth, JagWire copy editor

After a significant increase in odor complaints concerning the Johnson County Landfill during the latter half of last year, Waste Management, which bought Deffenbaugh and by extension the landfill in March 2015, began to take measures for odor reduction.

According to Waste Management spokesperson Lisa Disbrow, there was an increase in odor last year because of an unusually high amount of rainfall during the summer months.

Disbrow said that the increased amount of rainfall from April to August 2015, which was 15 inches more than the regular amount, made the trash decompose much faster, and made landfill gas much faster as a result. This caused the increase in odor.

City of Shawnee Communications Manager Dan Ferguson said the city took noticed of a sharp increase in odor complaints in fall 2015, and promptly contacted Waste Management, urging them to take action.

“The city, any time we have an issue that we believe is a quality of life issue, and a negative quality of life issue for our residents, we address it as quickly as we possible can,” Ferguson said via phone. “When we noticed the spike in complaints regarding the odor odor last fall, … we communicated with the owners of the landfill on multiple occasions. We asked them what they were doing to address the issue. We let them know that we felt this needed to be addressed as quickly as possible.”

After the odor became a noticeable problem, Waste Management began working on a solution. In January, the company expanded the current gas collection system by adding more piping and extraction wells. This system collects gas coming from the landfill using a vacuum, where the gas eventually goes to a place where it will be burned, according to Disbrow. Disbrow also said an on-site facility at the Johnson County Landfill specifically uses this to “heat and cool more than 5,000 area homes.”

After the new measures the odor has significantly improved, according to Disbrow.

“The odor complaints have decreased substantially with the expanded gas collection system,” Disbrow said via email. “As Johnson County Landfill is an operating facility, there may be trash or ‘garbage odors’ from time to time.”

Freshman Lyrik Cooper, who lives within three miles of the landfill, also believes the situation has gotten better.

“[The odor] appears to be better than it used to,” Cooper said. “It’s not as noticeable as it used to be.”

For Ferguson, the improvement is a positive sign, but he thinks it’s too early to declare the problem fixed.

“I think time will tell,” Ferguson said. “We as a city, we look at the owners of the landfill as community partners that we work with. We have seen some improvement in terms of the odor complaints being reduced and the odor being reduced. But we need to keep a close eye on and monitor it so it doesn’t come back up. We’re obviously appreciative of [Waste Management’s] hard work to get this fixed.”

Cooper is glad that Waste Management took steps to reduce the overall odor.

“That’s great [that they’re implementing new measures],” Cooper said. “The more they can control the odor, the better.”

Disbrow is hopeful for the future, and sees the odor control as part of Waste Management’s obligation to the surrounding community.

“We believe it is important to be a good neighbor,” Disbrow said. “And part of being a good neighbor is controlling odors.”

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